Arsenal never make it easy for themselves and it was no different on Saturday as the Gunners limped to a win against Reading. It was a nervy game, but the North London club edged past the Royals 2-1 to book a place in FA Cup final where they will meet Liverpool or Aston-Villa.
The Gunners started the game on a cautious note, as Reading tried to physically outwit Arsenal but neither side created any clear cut opportunities. The Royals were playing on the counter with most of the threat coming from the flanks as their pacy wingers delivered some good crosses into the box.
Some good stops by McGregor kept the score at 0-0 after denying Welbeck and Mertesacker. It was in the 38th minute that the deadlock was broken by Arsenal, after Ozil made a delightful weighted pass over the back line of Reading to Sanchez who did well to control it and put it in the back of the net.
The Gunners went into half time with a 1-0 lead and looked set to reach the final, but like we all know, football isn’t a fairy tale. The Royals started the second half on a brighter note and showed great heart to come back into the game.
The equaliser eventually came as the Royals cashed in on a misplaced pass from Debuchy, as McCleary drew level after converting the pull back from Pogrebnyak . Szczesny got a hand on the ball but it wasn’t enough to keep the ball out from squirming into net. The Championship side looked far more threatening after the break and came close to taking the lead when they found themselves in a 2 on 1 situation with isolated Laurent Koscienly but their Russian forward made a mess of the glorious opportunity.
Gabriel came on for Mertesacker after the goal for what looked like an injury concern for the big German and the Gunners had a glorious chance of finishing the game in regulation time as Ramsey hit the post. The game went into extra time and it was all about the fitness both mental and physical.
The North London club were in need of a goal that would get them in front and Wenger brought on Walcott (finally … some game time) in place of Coquelin. The goal ultimately came at the end of the first half of the extra time when a rather tame shot from Sanchez squirmed past the keeper inexplicably through his legs. It was a howler from someone who had made some fine saves to keep Reading in the game. Then it was all about seeing off the result in the second half and Arsenal did the same to get one step closer in a bid to retain the FA Cup.
It was a pulsating game, but Arsenal were no where near their best and almost all of the players struggled to make any considerable impact. Ramsey initially struggled but was a lot better in the second half, while Debuchy showed signs of lack off match fitness. Szczesny was good for most of the game except for that Reading goal, in which he had a part to play. Irrespective of the performances, we managed to pull off the win without being at our best and we will now take on either of Liverpool or Villa, based on the result of their game on Sunday.
Can Arsenal retain the FA Cup?